Friday, 10 May 2013

Watch: Lana Del Rey - Young and Beautiful

If there's one thing Lana Del Rey's retro-glam aesthetic was made for, it may be this. Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" came out in U.S. movie theaters at midnight on Friday May 10th, and she's one of several big names featured on its original soundtrack (rubbing shoulders with AndrĂ© 3000, BeyoncĂ©, Jay-Z, The xx and others). To be honest, I could care less about going to see this film. But Del Rey's contribution to the film's music, single "Young and Beautiful" has been stuck in my head for weeks, and now has an accompanying video. Like, even though she sings about how some guy's face "makes her want to party," I enjoy the musical arrangement in this enough to overlook that. 

The Chris Sweeney-directed video is simple, and a perfect fit for an artist whose videos often resemble fashion editorials more than anything else (ditto to Iggy Azalea, though with very different results). Del Rey recorded two versions of the song: this orchestral one, and another more percussive original. Listen to that take below, if you're curious about how the session musicians tackled instrumentation in both.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Q & A with Rush Midnight

About two months ago I met Russ Manning, frontman of tropical pop Cascine act Rush Midnight, in Williamsburg. He was due to play Glasslands Gallery. But before that we grabbed a beer at a nearby bar and talked about his transition from jazz training at Oberlin to playing bass with Twin Shadow, to striking out on his own.

Manning was generally sweet, in the distracted way musicians often are as they gear up for gigs. He told me the weekend after we met that he'd be filming his new video for "Don't Give Me Your Love," replete with girl gangs and inspired by The Craft. You can see the results below, and read my profile on him here.

Are Keytars About to Get Big?

Because if this new Thundercat track and last week's offering from Janelle Monae are anything to go by, then 2013 may become the latest Year of the Keytar. That brilliant keyboard and guitar hybrid instrument sounds like it makes appearances on Thundercat's "Oh Sheit It's X" (co-produced by FlyLo) and "Q.U.E.E.N." by Monae. And it gives both songs their retro-funk texture (which, yes, is as heinous a sentence to type as it looks, but pretty accurate here).

Signed to experimental electronic producer Flying Lotus' label Brainfeeder, Thundercat's been floating under the blog and live circuit radar for a good few years now. If you've been loosely following his music, the last you might've heard from Stephen Bruner, the bassist and producer behind Thundercat, was 2011's The Golden Age of the Apocalypse album. Even on Brainfeeder's site, the link to his artist page redirects to a personal Tumblr account--it currently sports a selfie a couple of posts down that I find too offensive to hyperlink here, but um basically Bruner is one elusive guy. That's the lesson of the day.

So when FlyLo shared the news that Thundercat not only had a new single, but an album on the way (due on June 4th, apparently) it was exciting to know that this genre-blending musician is back in the game. Back in April he shared single "Heartbreaks + Setbacks," which you can listen to below and also totally slipped past me the first time round. Whoops. It's a healthy serving of what he does well: coupling the principles of African-American pop with rich instrumentation and slick-as-hell production. It's no surprise that FlyLo has a co-production credit on that one too.

They swung through New York the other day as part of the Red Bull Music Academy's spring session, and are touring North America. Click here to let Pitchfork tell you more about that. (For whatever reason, Thundercat and FlyLo seem to link exclusively to Pitchfork for their press announcements, rather than an actual Brainfeeder press section, so there that is).
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